Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Chatting with Publishers: Victoria Hughes-Williams

Victoria Hughes-Williams is Senior Commissioning Editor, Fiction at Macmillan Publishers Ltd. In the final post of the series this year, she takes us into 2017 with some great insights into her work and a few helpful tips. Welcome, Victoria.

Can you tell us something about your journey to your present job?
My journey has been a well-trodden route, working my way up the editorial ladder across the varied publishing landscape. The reason I’ve always been attracted to the publishing industry is because it’s a melting pot of ideas, great minds and plenty of humour. What I love about the day-to-day is that I’m continually inspired by the people I work with: be they authors, colleagues or agents. Each day we challenge perspectives, come together to talk about books and then we are tasked with finding readers. The finished book is the sum of all of these parts and it’s the reason I’ve continued along the journey to my current role. 

What is a typical day like as a busy editor – if there is such a thing as a typical day?
If I’m lucky I might write some back-cover copy and a few strap lines. Then I’ll spend some time giving thought to a strategic direction we’re taking an author in. If I’ve just acquired a new author, I’ll be negotiating terms which will inform a publishing contract. Then I’ll spend time drafting cover briefs, which might involve trying out title ideas on my colleagues. One thing’s for sure, each day I try to consume more Earl Grey tea than anyone else within in the M25. 

Have you ever wanted to write a book
One day I hope that I will want to, but that moment hasn’t arrived yet.

When not surrounded by books in your job what do you like to read for leisure?
My reading habits vary wildly, but this year I’ve been busy gobbling up everything written by Elena Ferrante. We read our colleagues’ submissions too, so I enjoy everything from memoir to dystopia. The book I’m reading at the moment is pitched as Bridget Jones’ Diary-meets-The Matrix, one to look out for in 2018 . . . 

What are you looking for at present?
One of the books I acquired last Frankfurt Book Fair is a debut called Before You Go. It’s a love story, though not in a traditional sense. Boy meets girl; they share a full and loving life together  . . . But at the beginning of the book our leading man dies. This story asks what happens if you could turn back the clock and change the past  . . . Against all odds, can love triumph? In essence, I’m looking for novels that transcend genre, that take you on an unexpected journey and leave you breathless. Easy! 

If you receive a submission that is not a genre you handle, do you pass it to another editor in your company?
Yes, often. 

Does your company accept un-agented submissions?
We receive all of our submissions via literary agents on the Pan, Macmillan, Picador and Mantle lists. The exception is our science fiction and fantasy imprint, Tor Books, which does accept unsolicited submissions.
You can find lots of information on how to get an agent to represent you at there are plenty of writing tips there too. 
Do you have a crystal ball? What do you feel will be then next ‘big thing’?
It’s something I would like to have – what a handy desk tidy! Without a crystal ball to aid my publishing decisions, I tend to go with my instinct. As I write this, we’re adjusting to life in an ambiguous political climate. We’ve had unreliable narrators and we’ve had enough of unreliable politicians. What we need is the voice of the reliable, of the good, of those who’ve overcome life’s testing challenges. Did they find sanctuary, friendship, perhaps love?

In times of uncertainty, people crave comfort and stability and enjoy returning to a treasured reading habit. Next year, we will start publishing a writer whose stories are like a comfort blanket. That said, she's not one to shy away from controversial issues – choosing instead to tackle them head-on. Danielle Steel has never been afraid to shine a light on the voices of the unheard and we have some amazing stories coming next year.

If you have one piece of advice to give to anyone submitting a manuscript, what would it be?
If you’re confident that your manuscript is the best you can make it and if it meets an agent’s submission guidelines, you’ll have put your best foot forward. 

Thank you, Victoria, and may I take this opportunity of wishing you and all our contributors and readers and very Happy Christmas and a great reading/writing 2017.


Natalie Kleinman writes contemporary and historical romantic novels and has thrown a bit of a mystery into the mix in her current wip. She is accumulating a nice collection of Regency works to help with her research. You can follow her blog at

If you would like to write for the RNA blog please contact us on

Monday, December 12, 2016

FOCUS ON: Reading Chapter

We welcome Jean Fullerton with this month's focus on RNA Chapters

Today I'm talking to Julie Roberts of the Reading Chapter.

How long has your chapter been running, Julie?
I do not know. I took over as co-ordinator in March 2014 from Julie Cohen

How often do you meet?
3rd Wednesday of each month. We do not meet July and August.  

Where is your regular meeting place?
Great Expectations pub, 33, London Street, Reading, RG1 4PS  

How many members attend your meetings?
On average 8 – 10. Although if all members came is could be 16. And I am happy to say we are increasing our membership each year

Do your meetings include a meal?
Yes. The menu caters from a filled sandwich or roll to a full plated lunch.

Is your chapter open to non-members of the RNA?
Yes. Providing they are writing within the RNA genre

How long are your meetings?
We start at 12.30. There is no set finishing time.

Can you give an outline of speakers/guests you’ve had in the past year?
We have had no speakers/guests. However, each month a topic of writing interest is scheduled into the meeting. Eg:  middle novel blues, the power of settings.

What do you have planned for 2017?
Valentine’s Day writing workshop, continue our monthly sessions.

What would you say makes your chapter of the RNA so special?
Great Expectations’ is within easy walking distance of the railway station, buses and the Queens Road or Oracle car parks. We use the Library Room at GE which has a setting ideal for writers. The food is good and reasonably priced. We have a camaraderie that has built over time and will continue so into the future. Reading Chapter encourages members of the RNA - NWS to join us. This also includes non-members interested in writing romantic novels. We are a group of individuals who have become friends.

Does your chapter have a website, Facebook page or Twitter account?

Who is the contact for new members?
Julie Roberts. Email:

Thanks so much for joining us, Julie!

About Jean:

Jean was born in East End of London and spent all her career as a district nurse in East London but is now a full-time writer. Wedding Bells for Nurse Connie, is her current release. Her next novel Pocketful of Dreams, set in the turbulent years of WW2, is due for release in June 2017 and is the first in next East London series. 
Her first series with Orion Fiction was set in the Victorian period after which she jumped forward to post-war East London.
She is a proud graduate from the NWS and passionate about the local chapters, which is why she has taken on the role of Chapters Liaison. 

This blog was prepared by blog team member, Helena Fairfax

Friday, December 9, 2016

Competition Monthly December 2016

Our last Competition Monthly of 2016!

Titles are important. You need something that will catch the judge's eye and interest before they even start on the story. Long, rambling titles might seem indicative of a long, rambling story, so try to avoid them. Short, snappy titles are usually best, probably no more than five words. Make sure it's relevant to the story, not just eye catching. Often popular sayings, famous quotes or song titles are a good place to start if you're not good at making up titles.

It's also better to avoid common titles if you can, though that can be difficult if you're not sure how common your title is! One of my first published stories was called New Beginnings. I now know several people who've had stories with that title, or the similar A New Beginning, including my blog partner, Elaine Roberts. Other common titles include Lost and Found, The Homecoming, Rebirth, and The Awakening.

Neil Clarke, the editor of a science fiction magazine called Clarkesworld, put all the words from story titles he'd had submitted to him into a word cloud to ascertain their frequency. Some of the most common words used were man, time, house, last, new, moon, black, dead, death, world, one, little, life, red, day, love, night and dream. The fact it's a sci-fi mag might account for some of those words, of course. To see the rest of the word cloud visit 

Basically, you want a title that is neither too simple or common, nor too obscure or convoluted. Easier said than done, I know. If you get stuck, you could always try my old favourite, mind mapping.

Good luck, everybody, and don't forget to let me know of any competition successes you have.

***Closing Very Soon***
Writing Magazine Other Worlds Short Story Competition
Theme: Fantasy and SciFi, 1,500 – 1,700 words
Prize: £200 + publication in magazine / £50 + publication on website
Competition deadline: 14 December 2016
Entry: £5, £3 for subscribers

Writing Magazine Open Short Story Competition
Theme: Open, 1,500 – 1,700 words
Prize: £200 + publication in magazine / £50 + publication on website
Competition deadline: 16 January 2017
Entry: £5, £3 for subscribers

Bath Novella-in-a-Flash Competition
Theme: Open, 7,000 – 18,000, each individual flash no more than 1,000 words
Prize: £300 / 2 x £100 plus publication in one book for all three
Competition deadline: 31 January 2017
Entry: £16.00

The Fiction Desk Ghost Story Competition
Theme: Ghost, 1,000 to 7,000 words
Prize: £500 / £250 / £100, plus publication on website
Competition deadline: 31 January 2017
Entry: £8

Mercier Press Fiction Prize (unpublished authors)
Theme: Young Adult Novel. Enter 10,000 – 12,000 words of a novel max 100,000.
Prize: €1,000 plus publication
Competition deadline: 1 February 2017
Entry: Free

Bath Flash Fiction Prize
Theme: Open, 300 words max
Prize: £1,000 / £300 / £100 / 2 x £30
Competition deadline: 12 February 2017
Entry: £9

How Much The Heart Can Hold Love Story Competition
Theme: Love, 5,000 – 10,000 words
Prize: Publication in anthology with award winning authors + £150 + consultation with Emma Herdman, senior editor at Sceptre (Agent Lucy Luck is also a judge)
Competition deadline: 14 February 2017
Entry: Free

Jane Austen Short Story Competition
Theme: 2,017 words max based on a specific quote from Mansfield Park (see website)
Prize: £1,000 / £500
Competition deadline: 28 February 2017
Entry: £5

Francesca Capaldi Burgess has been placed or shortlisted in a number of competitions including Twyford Writers, Winchester Writers' Conference, Chorley and District Writers' Circle, Flash a Famous Phrase, Meridian Writing, Wells Festival and Writing Magazine. Her shortlisted entry for The People's Friend serial competition will be published soon. She's had stories published in magazines worldwide and in three anthologies, including Diamonds and Pearls and 100 Stories for Haiti. She is a member of the RNA New Writers' Scheme.


If you would like to write for the RNA Blog, then please contact us at

This blog was prepared by RNA Blog team member, Louisa Heaton.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


Thank you to Sheila Riley for bringing us the December releases of members of the RNA.
Another wonderful selection!


Joy to the world? Not if Abigail Scorrier has anything to do with it. She's spent most of her adult life trying to avoid the festive frenzy. She loved Christmas as a child in Cornwall. But ever since her life took a heart-breaking turn, she's buried those memories and done everything she can to avoid her past, her family and most of all, the Christmas season. But on Christmas Eve, Abigail will have three visitors she can't ignore, and what they reveal about her past, present and future might just change her life - and mend her heart.

December 1st 2016

Two girls. One horrendous war. The chance to unite a family . . .
Edith and Ada run Jimmy's Hope House where they care for unmarried mothers, and where Edith, a doctor, offers free medical help to the poor of London's East End. Both are struggling to overcome trauma from their past. For Edith there is the constant ache and yearning for her twin girls Elka and Ania, from whom she was separated in 1918. For Ada there is the threat of her sister returning . . .

As the Nazis strengthen their grip on Poland, sisters Elka and Ania are forced to make a difficult decision: travel to England to find their birth mother or stay and fight against an increasingly desperate regime? In times of war, no choices are ever easy to make. But making the right choice could keep you alive

Paperback and ebook
Accent Press
December 1st
17th in the Libby Sarjeant series. Libby and friends get involved in a Running Club.

Paperback and e-book
01 December 2016
1910. Anna Garvey arrives in Caernoweth, Cornwall with her daughter and a secret.
Having come from Ireland to take up an inheritance of the local pub, she and her eighteen year-old daughter Mairead are initially viewed with suspicion by the close-knit community. Anna soon becomes acquainted with Freya Penhaligon, a vulnerable girl struggling to keep her family business afloat in the wake of her grandmother's death, and starts to gain the trust of the locals. As their friendship deepens, and Freya is brought out of her shell by the clever and lively Mairead, even Freya's protective father Matthew begins to thaw. But when a part of Anna's past she'd long tried to escape turns up in the town, she is forced to confront the life she left behind - for her sake and her daughter's too . . .

Harlequin Mills & Boon
December 1st   
The beauty who tamed the beast. New governess Grace Bertram will do anything to get to know her young daughter, Clara, even if it means working for Clara's guardian, the reclusive and scarred Nathaniel, Marquess of Ravenwell.
Nathaniel believes no woman could ever love a monster like him, until Grace seems to look past his scars to the man beneath. But when he discovers Grace is Clara's mother, Nathaniel questions his place inthis torn-apart family. Could there be a Christmas happy-ever-after for this beauty and the beast?

Colleywood Press
9 December 2016
A collection of ten short stories previously published in women's magazines in the UK, including ones published in Australia, South Africa, Norway and Ireland.

Romaunce Books
December 2016
It is 1919 and Jamie Sinclair is a mere tenant farmer born out of wedlock. Catherine Capel is the daughter of a Scottish aristocrat, so even friendship is banned. Lady Capel is determined Catherine must marry a rich gentleman and introduces a widower, Lord Tannahill, but he cannot offer Catherine the love she seeks. When her grandfather is dying he divulges a family secret to Catherine, bringing her closer to the Sinclairs and infuriating her father. She insists on leaving finishing school to become a nurse. Her mother is appalled, especially when it brings her back into contact with Jamie Sinclair.

Severn House
31st December 2017
He is an earl who was left at the altar.
She was his childhood friend, his true love.
Now fate has brought them together again.

Love Will Find A Way
People's Friend Pocket Novel
15 December 2016
After an unexplained disappearance Sam Richards is back and filming a costume drama at Waterbridge Manor the home of Bethany Burnett's godfather Wendel. When Wendel volunteers Bethany's services as Sam's assistant she fears troubled times ahead.


e-book and pod
Desert Breeze
November 2016
Neither single mother Jenny, nor her climbing-instructor sister Fee are looking for love. But love finds them anyway, amidst the mountains of the English Lake District.

Choc Lit
13t December 2016
A Ruby Fawcett & Nate Bastable mystery. Ruby accepts a job writing about colourful Cambridge academic, Diana Patrick-John. Simple enough. But then there’s the small fact that Diana was found dead in suspicious circumstances in her home – the very place where Ruby has now been invited to stay.

Crooked Cat Publishing
15th December
Lady Aurelia Osbourne-Lloyd has long wished her bank balance was as big as her name. But her home, Leydale Park, is more of a pile in a state than stately pile, and with her father off ‘finding himself’ in Thailand, it’s up to her to turn the family fortunes around by entertaining demanding tourists. When a Hollywood production company chooses the estate as a location for a Regency movie, a whole new level of chaos enters Aurelia’s life. Her quiet days shattered and privacy non-existent, she has no choice but to go with the flow and let them take over. Never mind the added distraction of dishy leading man, Xander Lord, who may have an ulterior motive for wanting to get close to her… Can Aurelia keep her cool in light of all the upheaval?

ebook and paperback
Crooked Cat Publishing
8th December 2016
Layla is struggling to come to terms with the death of her friend, Danni, at a student party, a year ago. Perhaps she never will – because only Layla knows what really happened that night. When Layla meets Morgan, there’s an instant connection between them. But until she confronts the past, she can’t face the future,
let alone allow herself to fall in love.There is only one way out: Layla must confess her secret to Danni’s parents. But can she risk breaking their hearts all over again? And will Morgan still love her, once he discovers the kind of person she really is?
"A delicately explored and excellently written novel of grief, guilt and the importance of beginning again” ~ Elizabeth Buchan, Sunday Times bestselling author

FORMAT; E-novella
DATE OF RELEASE; 15th December
A sparkling short story set in Iceland, from the bestselling author of The Oyster Catcher, The Olive Branch and Late Summer in the Vineyard, available exclusively in ebook.

ebook novella
November 3rd 2016
The last thing Harriet Westmoreland wants is Christmas away from home,
particularly when skiing, snow, heights and freezing her backside off are on the menu. While her own family, together with her best friend Grace's, are soon whizzing down ridiculously high and scary mountains in the fashionable Italian resort of Cortina d'Ampezzo, Harriet is stuck in the remedial class on the nursery slopes unable, it seems, to remain vertical. Tired of trying to stay upright in the dunces' class, Harriet decides to overcome her fear of heights and take her bruised body off to explore the refugios in the magnificent Dolomites above Cortina. And maybe catch a glance of George Clooney, rumoured to be in town... But what happens next triggers a totally unexpected avalanche of events which proves that, for friends Harriet and Grace and all their families, Christmas really is a time for little miracles...

Mills & Boon
1st December
At the mercy of her enemy! Abducted by Saxon outlaws, Constance Arnaud comes face to face with Aelric, a Saxon boy she once loved. He’s now her enemy, but Constance must reach out to this rebel and persuade him to save her life as she once saved his… Aelric is determined to seek vengeance on the Normans who destroyed his family. Believing Constance deserted him, he can never trust her again. Yet, as they are thrown together and their longing for each other reignites, will Aelric discover that love is stronger than revenge?'

Paperback and e-book
SilverWood Books
25 November 2016
When Kate’s seriously successful and gorgeous ex-fiancĂ© walks back into her life,
her first instinct is to run – in any direction which isn’t his. So maybe agreeing to accompany him to Majorca, as his interpreter, isn’t such a good idea. But sometimes decisions just aren’t that easy. As the chemistry between them bubbles with renewed vigour, she is sorely tempted. Can a leopard really change its spots – or is she just deceiving herself with the man who broke her heart?

Choc Lit
6th December, 2016
Hide from the thief-taker, for if he finds you, he will take you away … Eighteenth-century Cornwall is crippled by debt and poverty, while the gibbet casts a shadow of fear over the land. Yet, when night falls, free traders swarm onto the beaches and smuggling prospers. Terrified by a thief-taker’s warning as a child, Jenna has resolved to be good. When her brother, Silas, asks for her help to pay his creditors, Jenna feels unable to refuse and finds herself entering the dangerous world of the smuggling trade.Jack Penhale hunts down the smuggling gangs in revenge for his father’s death. Drawn to Jenna at a hiring fayre, they discover their lives are more entangled than they first thought. Trust and loyalty are tested to the limits, but can there ever be love, as Jenna is a thief’s daughter – where blood always runs thicker…

Fabrian books
Jack exists in a world that has seen its fair share of tragedy, but also success and the wealth that comes with it. One snowy night, he crosses paths with Evie, a homeless girl, and it changes everything. It’s Christmas and a time for forgiveness, love and Happy Ever Afters. And when the snow starts to fall, the truth could finally bring everyone the gift of happiness they’re looking for.

The Christmas Project
HQ Digital
14th November 2016
Professional organiser Kate Stone has never – NEVER – been tempted to hit a client over the head with a snow shovel, but Michael O'Farrell is the most obnoxious – and heart-stoppingly gorgeous – man she has ever met. If he weren't her best friend’s brother, she would not have waited on his doorstep in the freezing cold for five minutes, let alone an hour. Kate knows, however, that her job isn’t just about tidying up, sometimes she needs to be part therapist too, and Michael clearly needs her help to declutter his heart as well as his home. But with the festive season just around the corner there isn’t much time to get Michael’s house ready for the O’Farrell family celebrations, but everyone knows that at Christmas anything can happen…


e-publication and paperback.
Books We Love
(Paperback) 20th November

In 1706 When Gervaise sees Juliana for the first time, he recognises her, but not from this lifetime…

1st December. 
Christmas is coming and New York is in full swing for the snowy season.
But at The Little Knitting Box in the West Village, things are about to change … The Little Knitting Box has been in Cleo’s family for nearly four decades, and since she arrived fresh off the plane from the Cotswolds four years ago, Cleo has been doing a stellar job of running the store. But instead of an early Christmas card in the mail this year, she gets a letter that tips her world on its axis. Dylan has had a tumultuous few years. His marriage broke down, his mother passed away and he’s been trying to pick up the pieces as a stay-at-home dad. All he wants this Christmas is to give his kids the home and stability they need. But when he meets Cleo at a party one night, he begins to see it’s not always so easy to move on and pick up the pieces, especially when his ex seems determined to win him back. When the snow starts to fall in New York City, both Cleo and Dylan realise life is rarely so black and white and both of them have choices to make. Will Dylan follow his heart or his head? And will Cleo ever allow herself to be a part of another family when her own fell apart at the seams? Full of snow, love and the true meaning of Christmas, this novel will have you hooked until the final page.

21 December 2016
When Bronte O'Hara finds an injured man in her kitchen in the run-up to an international political summit in Edinburgh, a world she thought she'd left behind catches up with her. When the man makes his escape, the police seem less interested in finding out where he went and how he came to be there than they  are in Bronte's past — more specifically, her ex-boyfriend, Eden Mayhew. Eden's an anarchist, up to his neck in any trouble around — and he's missing. The police are keen to find him, certain that he'll come back. Who can she trust — and what has Eden's disappearance got to do with the handsome stranger?

11 December
Marianne dreams of him. Being only his friend is a constant ache. Justin’s engagement signals the end of hope. But scandal strikes. Dare she seize her chance?

Self published
1st December 2016
Two stories. Wild Bells - The Shade on a Fine Day:
Curate William Church may set the hearts of the parish's young ladies aflame, but he doesn't want their affection or presents, no matter how much they want to give them to him. One night, eight for dinner at the Canon's table means the potential arrival of a ghost. But what message will the spirit bring and which of the young men around the table is it for?
The Angel in the Window:
Two officers, one ship, one common enemy. Alexander Porterfield may be one of the rising stars of the British navy, but his relationship with his first lieutenant, Tom Anderson, makes him vulnerable.
When danger comes more from the English than the French, where should a man turn?

The Heart of the Ocean, Book One
Ebook and Paperback
Independently published
2 November 2016
From chaotic voices on Earth to the tranquillity of the Kingdom under the Moons.
A young love. A new world. Four Kingdoms in a Game of Sequence. Who wins when Life and Death are on the line?

e-book, paperback
Susan O'Leary
December 15
Book 2 in the Tipperary Romance series.
Having left her hometown in County Tipperary after a scandal ten years earlier, Dessie Broadbent arrives back on a special assignment. When she reconnects with family and old friends, history threatens to repeat itself as she is drawn into a love affair that might cause yet another scandal. The arrival in town of a man of from her past adds a further twist to an already impossible situation.